The Beaten Path, Montana, 2015

Elk Lake, elevation 6800'ft. 

Busy is a choice. Stress is a choice. Joy is a choice. Choose well. 

It has become a yearly tradition to hike "The Beaten Path" once every summer. I hiked it last year - you can read a detailed post about that experience here. 

AHHHHH! I love hiking - getting up into the mountains & total wilderness — feeling like a little ant walking on the earth — the size of these rocks is awesome! Creation is amazing, & God is good. I'm super blessed & thankful to have the health & life that I have. I'm trying to make the most of summer while it lasts!

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16 

This year I hiked The Beaten Path with 2 friends - We started at the Clarks Fork Trailhead, just past the Chief Joseph Campground on July 16th & finished on the 18th at East Rosebud Lake.

This hike is "approximately" 26 miles long, not counting any side trips off trail. It is a strenuous hike, but not technically difficult or dangerous. It is also a well-traveled path, & perhaps the best way to experience the diversity & beauty of the Beartooths.

If starting at the Clarks Fork trailhead the elevation is 8000'ft - the peak elevation on the trail is just over 10000'ft, & finishing elevation is 6000'ft. You get more downhill hiking starting on the side we did. You hike uphill 90% of the first 10 miles, then from there its like 85% downhill  for the remaining 16 miles. (As opposed to starting at East Rosebud, where you hike a steep long uphill for the first 16 miles.)

In a nutshell: We hiked The Beaten Path in 3 days, 2 nights. The first day (starting at  the Clarks Fork Trailhead, 9:40am), it took us about 9 hours to hike 12 miles to Dewey Lake, our camp site for the night. (10 of the 12 miles were uphill. We hiked about 2mph the first 7 miles, & also took numerous little breaks along the way. Stopped at Russell Lake for about 30min too.) The next morning, it was an easy  7 miles downhill (9am-1pm) to Rainbow Lake & our camp site. The 3rd day we hiked 7 more downhill miles, finishing the hike by 12pm at East Rosebud Lake. We rested for about 40min at Elk Lake on the way.

Impasse Falls - around 300ft tall. 
When hiking the Beaten Path -you will get rained on, no matter what the forecast says. The forecast is hard to predict in the mountains. Two of the 3 days I was hiking were supposed to be "50% chance of rain"; but both those days were sunny. The "20% chance of morning rain" day turned into a wild afternoon thunder storm… The last 2 of the 12 miles we hiked the first day, we were hiking in a hail/sleet thunderstorm. The temperature dropped from mid 60s to low 40s.

Honestly, no one likes hiking in the rain, things get slick! Bring good rain gear so you stay dry & warm! Also, make sure you know what to do if caught on the plateau in a storm. Don't make yourself a lighting target! 

The mosquitoes are bad. Take strong bug repellent.  I brought repellent that was 25% deet, it seemed to work ok, but I still got more bites then I liked. The bugs are blood thirsty up there! They only seemed worse on the higher lakes, near the plateau. The lower we got, towards Rainbow Lake, the fewer they become. (At least during this time of year.)

All around the trailhead (Cooke City side) the bugs were bad. East Rosebud side, no bugs.

Obviously is grizzly country - proper food storage, bear spray & guns are a really good idea, & safety precaution. When I hike, I'm packing a .357 & bear spray. (Better to be safe then sorry!!!) I hang my food at night too.

Last year when I hiked in July - there were still HUGE snow drifts we had to hike over. This year there wasn't ANY snow we had to hike over. (Dryer winter….) Having a walking pole could be helpful for some people. There are 3 major water crossings, & depending on the snowmelt, the water could be over knee deep or you could "rock-hop" across with shoes left on. Hiking in "convertible" short/pants works great, & keeps you dry.

This year water levels were very low, so nothing was very hard to get across. Last year however, the water was almost thigh deep in places, so it was much harder getting across the "rivers" as the current was swift. 

I found it interesting when reading about The Beaten Path in hiking books, "river/lake" crossings were NOT mentioned…. Make sure you pack some water shoes!

There are countless beautiful lakes, several note-worthy waterfalls, endless views & wildflowers galore on this trail. I would suggest taking a longer time to hike The Beaten Path - & setting a camp somewhere near Fossil Lake - from there, there are numerous day hikes & other lakes to hike to.

Here are some pics for you to enjoy!
The trail between Elk Lake & East Rosebud - 3 miles from the finish.
Ouzel Lake, elevation 9445'ft. 
Twin Outlets Lake, elevation 9200'ft.

A well-traveled trail — Saw a good number of other hikers throughout the entire trail, & two horses & some mules along the way. The Beaten Path is a very popular trail, but everyone spreads out on it, so you seldom see other hikers, even though there could be dozens of hikers on the trail. 
My hiking buddies JohnRoss & Jessica! 
Hiking on the beautiful plateau, just past Fossil Lake (elev. 10,000+ft) 

- With storm clouds chasing us! We got stormed on (thunder / hail / rain / sleet) the last 2mi of the 12 miles we hiked the first day. The temperature got down to 42'F. 

Camp site 2nd night at Rainbow Lake.
 We hung our damp clothes out to dry at our camp site.  The storm soaked us pretty good the night before. There are many great camp sites by Rainbow Lake. 

Rainbow Lake, elevation 7700'ft. 
Rainbow lake displays a beautiful blue-green color (often called "glacier milk") indicative of a glacier-fed lake. The water felt wonderful on my tired feet & sore knee. :) 

Hiking around Fossil Lake, elevation 10000'ft. 

If ya have any questions, lemme know in comments below & I'll do my best to answer! 

Some good resources for hiking in or around the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness:

Happy hiking,


En Plein Air


For the past 3 days I've been in Red Lodge, MT - participating in a painting workshop! I learned some, but mostly reviewed what I knew - & got some good painting hours in! Lately I've been SO busy with LIFE - that I haven't done any painting… This workshop was really good for me. It was refreshing to get out 'en plein air' & be challenged to study the ever-changing light, values, & compositions of landscapes.

It was fun workshop… Each day we met at 9am at Montana Gallery, on Main Street in Red Lodge. From there we'd drive out to the painting location & paint for a few hours, then break for lunch, & resume in the afternoon, & paint till the light faded. There were 7 artists (myself included) attending the workshop that was headed up & taught by Tyler Murphy. I loved meeting the other artists, it was inspiring for me to see other people's views on art & life — I met a lady (& her sweet dog, Panda Bear) who were from Texas. Another man & woman from Billings MT,  a lady from the Bitterroot Valley, & a lady from up state New York. Then there was myself (basically a local) & a guy from Joliet. 

Make sure you check out Montana Gallery — there is some crazy good art there. If you ever find yourself in Red Lodge, make sure you stop by! There's good art, good vibes & good people to be found at Montana Gallery. I've known Tyler for a few years, & have taken painting classes from him several times. They never disappoint, & are always lots of fun! 

Below are some pictures of my painting endeavors —

Quick studies of Mount Maurice, a flower, & distant Beartooth Mountains — 
This is me — painting a view of a distant Red Lodge Mountain. 
9x12 oil "Where The Creek Goes" …I was happy with this picture.

"Artist At Work" 9x12 oil on linen. 

A quick sketch at 10,000'ft atop the Beartooth Highway
The ever-changing lighting made it difficult to capture the colors…